So I finally read Bobby Jindal’s speech to the Republican National Committee, and I confess that it left me a bit confused. Jindal opens with a complaint that Republicans have become too focused on “zeroes” and “number-crunching” and government book-keeping, which he believes puts Republicans at a disadvantage in any debate with their opponents. Then in the next breath, he expresses his irritation that bad or irrelevant ideas such as term limits and the balanced budget amendment are not taken seriously. Because these ideas are not taken seriously, Jindal proposes instead that the GOP focus all of its attention on promoting growth and opportunity. Jindal insists that Republicans must be the “party of growth” rather than the “party of austerity,” which overlooks the small problem that the only specific measures he has referred to in his speech up to this point have nothing to do with promoting growth.
The closest that Jindal comes to specific suggestions for becoming the “party of growth” is to say that Republicans must “promote the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the self-employed woman who is one sale away from hiring her first employee.” In other words, the party must become even more preoccupied with celebrating entrepreneurs along the lines of the second day of last year’s convention. At the same time, Jindal believes Republicans ought to simplify the tax code and “blow up the incentives that Washington uses to coerce behavior from the top-down,” which raises the question of how Jindal thinks Republicans at the federal level should go about promoting all of these entrepreneurs and risk-takers.
Jindal’s closing remarks include several references to American exceptionalism, which he revealingly defines as “the idea that this country is better and different than any other on the planet.” Many movement conservatives have used the phrase American exceptionalism in a way that has always suggested that what they meant was something like this, which is a distortion of the phrase’s proper meaning. American exceptionalism should refer to the unique qualities of our political system and of our historical and constitutional inheritance that have set America apart from other nations, but in Jindal’s reckoning it is principally an affirmation of national superiority.